Sights and smells of Ipswich were magic

A BUSY cattle market every Tuesday, steam locomotives pulling trains to and from Ipswich Station and the excitement of standing on the terraces at Ipswich Town Football Club.

David Kindred

A BUSY cattle market every Tuesday, steam locomotives pulling trains to and from Ipswich Station and the excitement of standing on the terraces at Ipswich Town Football Club.

These are all boyhood memories for Rod Cross, who had family connections with the Princes Street area of Ipswich.

I started Rod's memories of the area last week and he starts today by recalling the sights and smells around the cattle market.

He writes: “Between Portman Street and Cecilia Street was Cattermole's Garage and Spurling and Hempson's sale yard. The latter was an extension of the Cattle Market on the opposite side of Princes Street. Even in the mid 1960s livestock was still being herded across what was by then a very busy street and bus route. A policeman on a box in the middle of the road controlled the traffic.

“The first time I went to the livestock market I was aged about eight and obviously quite impressionable. Red-faced, bull-necked men with flat caps, and well-polished boots, poked and prodded reluctant Friesians as they stumbled and slithered down the straw-covered tail gate ramps of muddy Bedford trucks.

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“After being paraded round a ring amid lots of shouting, the cattle were then released into pens where they stood panting and glowering. I couldn't quite see the point in all this activity, but it was undoubtedly exciting, especially when the pigs began to play up and had to be man-handled, squealing and squirming, as they tried to resist their brown-coated assailants! For a 'townie' like me, the sights, sounds and smells of country life was quite intoxicating.

“All this shouting was undoubtedly thirsty work which would partly account for the proliferation of pubs in the area. Two of the most popular on market days were The Three Swans on the corner of Cecilia Street and the Old Marsh Tavern, where Reg Hurle was landlord for many years. The latter stood on the Chalon Street corner, from where it was just possible to catch a first glimpse of the stands of Portman Road football stadium.

“On the day that my father first took me there, in March 1954, Shrewsbury were the visitors and although Town were top of Division Three South, the crowd numbered only 13,439. At that time, the ground was mainly open terracing with the only seating in the little wooden grandstand running beside Portman Road. Behind one of the goals was Churchman's Stand, which was floored with old railway sleepers.

“On match days the air was dense with the smoke from thousands of cigarettes. Quite possibly many of these cigarettes were made only yards away at the Churchman's tobacco factory. Churchman's was a major local employer, producing nationally-known brands such as 'Red Tenner' and 'Churchman's No I' in their familiar olive green pack. It was not without a price though, for the sweet, slightly sickly smell of tobacco was all-pervasive in this part of town.

“From here, down to the railway station, the character of Princes Street changed completely. There were no shops and few houses. On one side there was little, apart from Nicholls car sales and E Catchpole and Sons builder's yard, with the Princes Hotel on the corner of Commercial Road. Opposite was the former Paul's maltings.

“Just before the station was the bridge over the River Orwell. In contrast to the sparkling, fast-running water of the Gipping further upstream, the Orwell at this point looked sluggish and turgid with banks of thick mud and little to please the eye. The Station Hotel provided the final drinking place for local farmers, some of whom may well have escorted their animals down Princes Street to the railway sidings to await the final leg of their journey.

“The station itself was a somewhat unprepossessing building. Built for the Great Eastern Railway in 1860, it lacked the grandeur of a terminus station such as Norwich Thorpe or even Felixstowe Town, but nevertheless provided me and many other small boys with hours of pleasure and excitement. The station was entered by crossing a car park where Cornhill-bound trolley-buses would be waiting. My earliest memories are of single-deckers, which instead of a route number carried the letter X. Apparently this should have been '10', but as there was only room for a single digit on the route designation board, so the Roman numeral was used instead!

“Arriving in the station foyer I would make a bee-line for the platform ticket machine where one old penny would provide the passport to an afternoon of sheer bliss. Once on the platform, I became totally enveloped in the atmosphere of a busy railway station: the blowing of whistles and waving of flags; the opening and slamming shut of heavy, carriage doors; the shouts of platform staff and train crews; and, most evocative of all, the noise and smells of the mighty steam engines. I would stay until a Britannia class loco' such as Oliver Cromwell or Clive of India pulled in the first commuter train from Liverpool Street.”

- Do you have memories of life in the past in the Princes Street area of Ipswich? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star or e-mail

Gum tax left bitter taste:-

WHO stole the gum chum? Strange little vending machines outside shops selling chewing gum were a common site in the 1950 and 60s. Schoolchildren loved to feed the machines with their pocket money.

In a recent Kindred Spirits, Rod Cross recalled one of the machines outside a shop in Foxhall Road, Ipswich. Mick Hawes, of Daventry, recalls how those in power 'stole' the bonus packs by adding tax to the gum.

Mick said: “Rod's memories of a childhood in Ipswich in the 1950s were so vividly written and so similar to mine. I too am an exile, in my case in rural Northamptonshire, but I feel that his reference to “obtaining two packets instead of one from the 'Beech Nut' chewing gum machine outside the corner shop on Wellesley Road” needs some further explanation.

“I would not like it thought that this bonus packet was achieved either by a malfunction of the machine or to skullduggery on Mr Cross' part! The handle of the machine was marked with an arrow that had four positions that rotated as large old penny coins were fed into the machine. “When one was lucky enough to find a machine with the arrow pointing forward there was no hesitation in placing your penny in the slot and obtaining two packets. The bigger decision came if you could see that the machine was one position short of this. Then you had to decide if two coins should be invested in order to achieve the now far more common three for the price of two.

“This practice of a free packet every fourth turn of the handle came to an end, if I remember correctly, when purchase tax was extended to sweets and confectionary, possibly at the rate of 25 per cent.

“I am sure the sales of 'Beech Nut' chewing gum must have been severely affected! I put my political awakening down to a class mate's explanation that 'the government has pinched all those extra packets of chewing gum!'.”

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